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Class-Action Lawsuit Filed Over Sexual Abuse of Female Detainees at CCA Facility in Texas
CCA guard Donald Charles Dunn, 30, was tasked with transporting immigration detainees who were being released. On May 11, 2010, a newly-released detainee complained to airport officials that she had been groped by Dunn. Austin police were summoned. They notified the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) and sheriff’s deputies interviewed Dunn, who admitted groping several women when transporting them late at night.
Dunn said he would stop at several locations in Williamson and Travis Counties on the way to Austin. He then “told the women he was going to frisk them and inappropriately touched their breasts, crotch and buttocks,” according to a WCSO press release. “Mr. Dunn advised that he didn’t do this for safety concerns but as self gratification. Mr. Dunn indicated that he had done this to numerous other women while performing his duties as transport officer.”
WCSO began a “large scale investigation” following Dunn’s interview, and officials with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which was responsible for the detainees held at the T. Don Hutto facility, were notified.
Investigators located three other women who said they had been groped by Dunn. One stated she feared for her life and thought she would be raped. Several other women who had been transported while it was daylight or raining said Dunn had not touched them. Other women who may have been abused by Dunn could not be located.
Dunn was arrested on August 19, 2010 and charged with three counts of official oppression and two counts of unlawful restraint.
“The sexual abuse of numerous immigration detainees at Hutto underscores the systemic failures that continue to plague our nations’ broken immigration detention system.... ICE has ignored repeated calls for increased and independent oversight of its immigration detention facilities and the private contractors like CCA who run them, and tragedies like this are the unfortunate result,” said ACLU Deputy Legal Director Vanita Gupta.
“It is long past time to close the book on ICE’s relationship with CCA. If this administration is serious about reform, it cannot continue to spend millions of taxpayer dollars every month on a private contractor that has proven over and again it is demonstrably incapable of running a safe and humane facility. Immigrant women, many of whom have fled to the United States seeking refuge from sexual violence, should not fear more of the same at the hands of ICE and its contractors,” added ACLU of Texas Legal Director Lisa Graybill.
Dunn pleaded guilty to two federal charges of depriving female detainees of their civil rights in September 2011. He was sentenced on November 17 to just ten months in federal prison. See: United States v. Dunn, U.S.D.C. (W.D. TX), Case No. 1:11-cr-00168-AWA-1.
The ACLU of Texas filed a class-action suit against CCA and ICE officials, Dunn and Williamson County on October 19, 2011, on behalf of three female detainees who alleged they had been sexually abused.
According to the 76-page complaint, “under its Intergovernmental Service Contract (‘the IGSA’) with Williamson County, the Texas county in which Hutto is located, ICE expressly required that ‘[d]uring all transportation activities, at least one (1) transportation officer shall be of the same sex as the residents being transported.’ The contract between Williamson County and the Corrections Corporation of America ... expressly incorporated the terms of the IGSA. Nevertheless, Defendants repeatedly violated this requirement by allowing male officers, such as Dunn, to transport female detainees without the presence of another officer, much less a female officer.” See: Doe v. Neveleff, U.S.D.C. (W.D. TX), Case No. 1:11-cv-00907.
According to an internal CCA document obtained by Prison Legal News, the Hutto facility was significantly understaffed around the time that Dunn sexually abused detainees while transporting them without a female officer present. It is the business model of private prison companies such as CCA to cut costs by understaffing and leaving vacant positions unfilled, so as to reduce payroll expenses and thus generate more profit.
In this case, understaffing at Hutto may have contributed to the sexual abuse of female detainees when CCA violated ICE policy by not ensuring that a female transport officer was present to accompany female detainees being transported.
According to research conducted by the ACLU through public records requests, 185 allegations of sexual abuse were reported at immigration detention facilities nationwide between 2007 and 2010, both privately and publicly operated. Of those reported incidents, 56 occurred in Texas.
Sources: www.kxan.com, ACLU press releases, www.americanindependent.com, www.kvue.com
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Related legal cases
United States v. Dunn
|Cite||U.S.D.C. (W.D. TX), Case No. 1:11-cr-00168-AWA-1|
Doe v. Neveleff
|Cite||U.S.D.C. (W.D. TX), Case No. 1:11-cv-00907|